Woodward Court Woodward Street – Ancoats Manchester

“What’s going on?”

As Marvin Gaye so succinctly asked.

Why is there just one remaining tower block dancing unclad around Ancoats?

Let’s go back in time and see if we can find out – it seems that back in 1807 there wasn’t a Woodward Street to be found, the ever expanding industrial might of Manchester had not yet reached these particular green fields of Ancoats.

By 1824 it shows a fresh face to the world christened Woodworth Street, sparsely dotted with new development.

Almost fully formed in 1836 and renamed as Woodward Street, the area begins to accumulate the familiar domestic and industrial clutter of a burgeoning Victorian City.

By 1860 the street is fully formed and open for business.

Workers finding homes in austere and functional brick back to backs, typical of the period’s housing.

Fast forward to the early Sixties and the street is showing signs of age – the century old industries are already in decline, steady jobs, mills and factories gone west and east, well-worn housing looking terminally tired and in need of a little care and attention.

But wait what’s this coming around the bend?

The first wave of urban regeneration, post war optimism incarnate, a bright new shiny future – out with the old and in with the new, as Municipal Modernism stamps its big broad architectural feet all over Woodward Street.

Archival photographs from Manchester Local Image Collection

Our story is far from over, this optimism is short-lived the homes, houses and industry are swept away yet again, replaced with two story modern terraced housing and an all too obvious absence of regular employment – yet the tower blocks prevailed.

Former streets were over written and remain as poignant vestigial marks in the landscape.

Grand plans are made for their revival.

Paul Daly

Though their future was built on more than somewhat shifting and uncertain sands.

A tower block has been left lying empty for a whopping 18 years. The 13-storey building at Saltford Court in Ancoats has been unoccupied since Manchester council closed it in the 1990s. It was bought by top developers Urban Splash six years ago but residents have now hit out about it still being empty. Neighbours of Saltford Court say it has become an ‘eyesore’ and magnet for vermin since the firm bought it.

Manchester Evening News 2012

A large group of blocks stood tinned up and unloved, yet owned, for a number of years, victims one supposes of land-bankers, developers speculating on an even better return, as the warm waves of gentrification washed slowly over them, from nearby New Islington.

All but one was refurbished, clad and re-let.

Woodward Court was spared – set aside for the homeless.

A period piece surrounded by Post Modern and Revivalist pretenders.

Why not go take a look.

Ten Acres Lane Again – Manchester

Having travelled back in time along Ten Acres Lane why not come along with me now and see just what’s left – right?

Each Manchester street tells its own tales of homes and people been, gone, rebuilt and buried – whole industries evaporating laid waste by seismic economic forces, land changing use again and again – shop door bells which are a now but a ghostly tintinnabulation on the wind.

Starting from the Oldham Road end the clearance of older terraced homes was followed by the construction of newer 70s social housing.

The former Tootal’s Mill is now owned by Sleepdown Textiles.

Some of the older terraces were spared the wrecker’s ball.

Industrial sites remain fenced and unused slowly returning to some form of urban natural habitat.

The cast-iron Rochdale Canal bridge is still in place – it was itself a replacement for an earlier masonry version.

Mather and Platt’s foundry sheds are just about hanging on – though I am uncertain of their current use and ownership.

The recreation ground is now an extensive community football facility and also home to the National Taekwondo Centre.

This large tract of land once Jackson’s Brickworks is under consideration for a modern private housing development

Much of the inter-war housing stock is still extant.

The sad shell of the Co-operative corner shop currently half storefront church half former tyre supplier is a sorry sight.

The still-standing CWS Works.

Finally passing under the railway bridge and descending into the Medlock Valley – our journey’s end.

William Mitchell – Newton Heath

On meeting an old friend in Manchester – following previous encounters in Coventry, Salford and Liverpool

Following a lead from Neil Simpson I cycled along Clayton Vale and emerged on Amos Avenue where the flats came into view.

I was in search of an an averaged sized totemic concrete municipal public art pillar – similar to the example to be found in Eastford Square.

It belongs to a time when Municipal Modernism was very much in vogue – the provision of social housing along with the commissioning of murals, sculptures, mosaics and tiled reliefs.

There has been some discussion regarding its authorship – it may or may not be the work of William Mitchell – both Skyliner and The Shrieking Violets have tried to find an answer.

Inevitably my only concern is art over authenticity – does it move you?

Let’s just take a little look.



Birley Street Tower Blocks – Blackburn

One fine day – whilst walking back to and/or from happiness, in the general direction of Blackburn town centre, I happened to chance upon three towers.

Whilst not in any sense Tolkienesque – for me they held a certain mystique, wandering unclad amongst swathes of trees and grass.

Trinity, St Alban and St Michaels Courts – three thirteen storey towers each containing sixty one dwellings.

Three thirteen-storey slab blocks built as public housing using the Sectra industrialised building system. The blocks contain 183 dwellings in total, consisting of 72 one-bedroom flats and 111 two-bedroom flats. The blocks are of storiform construction clad with precast concrete panels. The panels are faced with exposed white Cornish aggregate. Spandrel panels set with black Shap granite aggregate are used under the gable kitchen windows. The blocks were designed by the Borough architect in association with Sydney Greenwood. Construction was approved by committee in 1966.

Pastscape

Built on Birley Street following extensive 1960’s slum clearance.

Providing an excellent backdrop for the passing parade.

Each entrance porch with a delightful concrete relief on the outer face.

On the reverse a tiled relief – sadly painted over.

They are well proportioned slabs set in ample open landscape dotted with mature trees – maintained to a high standard.

Return To Penrhyn Bay

Then the very next morning it came right back to me.

She wrote upon it:

Return to Penrhyn Bay – so I dutifully did

This is the land of the well-behaved bungalow, neatly tended, conscientiously swept, accessorised by B&Q.

The stoic sea and wind washed link-detached semi.

Nothing is out of place, except perhaps the architectural style – a West Coast blow in on the North Wales Coast.

To wander is to wonder:

Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

High Street Estate – Pendleton

High Street Pendleton 1930s – the cast of Love on the Dole walk down High Street Pendleton, passing Hill’s Pawnbroker, author Walter Greenwood is ninth from the right.

This was a dense area of back to back terraces adjacent to pubs, schools, churches, mills, docks and cattle markets. Communities formed from shared patterns of employment, education, leisure and worship.

These communities survived into the 1960s and the coming of slum clearance, followed by an intense period of rebuilding in the modern manner.

Archival photographs Digital Salford

Patterns of employment, economic boom and bust, the exponential expansion in higher education, all contribute to the change in character of the area, along with slow and sudden demise in social housing.

2014 and the area begins to be reshaped yet again – this time by former resident Mr Peter Hook, who grew up in the area, the low slung former New Order bass meister described it in a book as – rotten and horrible, like a concrete wasteland

The Orchards tower block, the first of three, is removed piece by piece, each of the 14-storey blocks took around six weeks to be demolished.

The citizens of High Street Estate await the ‘dozers with apprehension and a sense of grim inevitability.

Clearance begins with the promise of new homes, tenants and homeowners are relocated, houses are tinned up or demolished wholesale. – a few remain in situ dissatisfied and afraid.

Altogether, 885 houses in Pendleton are being bulldozed and, to date, 584 have already been demolished, including houses on Athole Street and Amersham Street. Over the Pendleton Together project’s £650million thirty year life, only around one third of new houses being built will be affordable.

Meanwhile, after years of anguish and uncertainty, Fitzwarren Court and Rosehill Close, previously down for demolition, are being saved. Salix Homes will now bring flats in Fitzwarren Court and houses in its ownership on Rosehill Close up to the Decent Homes Standard

Salford Star

So welcome to Limboland – as financial arrangements shift, shimmy and evaporate – government policy, local authority pragmatists, private partnerships and funding perform a merry dance of expediency, around an ever diminishing circle of demolition, development, stasis and deceit.

The Barbican Estate – London

Bouncing betwixt and between Bonnard and Bill Viola from Tate Modern to the Royal Academy I took a detour to The Barbican – in search of the Dorothy Annan tiled mural.

Having failed conspicuously to find it, following an extensive and discursive wander, I did the wise thing and asked.

My thanks to the helpful resident and his young son.

Redirected and on course for our deferred engagement, Dorothy and I met at last on an underpass.

I also recently discovered a Barbican Manchester mash up – Gerrards of Swinton fulfilled their largest ever single order for the site – my thanks to David Roughley for the information and illustration.

Here are the snaps that I took along the way.